Guatemala Travel Blog

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I awoke this morning to the sounds of early risers preparing for their day.  Wood was being chopped in the courtyard, pots and pans, plates & cutlery clinking in the kitchen.  A fresh, crisp morning warmed only by the smoky smell of wood burning and blended with the odour of corn tortillas and coffee drove me from my bed.  Having arrived last night I was eager to explore this mountain town. 

This is my third day in Guatemala.  Yesterday was spent in Huehuetenango about 70kms from the border crossing of Cuauhtémoc.

We did get an early start from San Cristobal but unfortunately had problems at the border.  Naomi did not have a visa for Guatemala.  I had already organised one a few months before in San Francisco.  We had heard a few conflicting stories about obtaining a visa at the border but we thought we'd try our luck there anyway.  It would have been possible only senŏr consulado had gone to Comitan! The bus had arrived so we decided that Naomi would go back to Comitan and I would meet up with her in Huehuetenango. Luckily a truck came along with some Americans and a couple of Italians and they were happy to give Naomi a ride back to Comitan.

As usual I was the only foreigner on the bus with about 70 other people crammed 3 per seat and the aisle full as well.  Senŏr co-pilot was being quite aggressive with everyone, pushing all the young children standing in the aisle.  When he came to collect the fare, the woman sitting next to me didn't have enough money so senŏr grabbed her bag with the intent of throwing her, her small child and the luggage off the bus in the middle of the mountain range.  I intervened; "por favor senŏr, I will pay the 50 centavos." At least I stopped the confusion and much later he gave the money back to me.  The woman was so grateful, although I couldn't understand a word she was saying I could see from the look on her face.  For the remainder of the trip all my fellow passengers continued to smile and point out anything they thought might interest me. 

Felt quite lost in Huehuetenango.  There weren't many tourists about and I felt very vulnerable with the constant whistling, stares and comments. I found a room in a pensiŏn for 5 quetzales.  $AU2.  Cold water again but at least it was cheap.  Didn't bathe as it was really cold, being the highest point in Guatemala.  Spent half the next day waiting for Naomi, she arrived about 2pm and we set off toward Panajachel.

Guatemala, the most colourful country I have ever seen.  Overall it is a paradise full of friendly faces and beautiful traditional costumes.  With incredible topography, from volcanoes, tranquil blue lakes, rugged mountain ranges and rolling farmland. 

The winding road around the mountain from Huehuetenango to Panajachel gave us a view of rural Guatemala.  Multi colours of autumn including brown, gold, red and yellow.  The drooping remains of cornstalks recently harvested; the trimmed stubble of other crops; wispy strands of wheat swaying in the wind; patches of red, brown earth ploughed ready for planting; neatly manicured rows bordered with small green shrubs and grasses separating each crop and varying shapes of yellow haystacks presented a brilliant patchwork picture.  All but the steepest areas of the mountain were used for farming.  The high mountain tops and the almost vertical drops were left to the pine trees, their supply of firewood for cooking and heating, gathered as needed and tied into bundles carried on the backs and heads of the men, women and children.  These hunched bodies a common sight walking about the hills and the roadside.  The men generally work the fields while the women care for the family.  Although on occasions we have seen women with babies on their backs picking, planting and harvesting crops and helping with the hand irrigation by scooping water into shallow buckets from small channels and tossing the water over the plants. 

Everyone is involved in the hand crafting of the exquisitely embroidered textiles and meticulously carved masks and figurines.  Each piece is so unique and indigenous to the area in which it’s made.  In Solola and Panajachel the men and women both dress in the traditional clothing.  I have heard that in other areas of Guatemala only the women and children carry on the tradition.

The costumes are so beautiful that I am nearly horrified to seen the men working in ditches and the women sitting in the dirt selling food or crafts but to them it is everyday wear.  Such a wonderful tradition carried on for centuries.  (Today we spotted a man wearing Australia's traditional clothing, a pair of thongs and a pair of stubbies. ) Muy bonito!  Yuk


kingelvis14 says:
Oh, my! You traveled in Guatemala all alone? Weren't you nervous and afraid? My daughter's very best friend from college was born and raised in Guatemala City but now lives in Atlanta. Her father was murdered by bandits when he was on a trip to the beach. They took his car and all his cash and, of course, no one was ever charged for the crime. It is very dangerous. But your story is so well written, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Good job! ~~ Cathey
Posted on: Jan 01, 2008
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